A friend and colleague at work lent me a book by Malcolm Gladwell called Outliers. It was a gripping read and I finished it while we were on holiday in Hermanus. After a long stint of very pressured working it felt like I was being reeled back into normalcy both by the surrounds and this “story of success”.
The chief impression I took away from this book was gratitude… Gladwell builds a strong case that genius in the sense of an outlier on top end of the success graph is not “pure genius” in the sense that there are numerous factors that gave the outlier significant advantages without which he would not be an outlier. He speaks of the physical advantages (age, maturity in young sportsmen) and hard work (10000 hours to mastery, rice farmers) and family heritage and racial (Jamaican “whiteness”, Jewish lawyers) and cultural heritage (rice farmers, power distance in Korea vs US), and timing (the Great Depression, computer age, 1970s law changes, 1870s America), and specific advantages of being at the right school or university (Bill Joy, Bill Gates). At the end of it one is a bit overwhelmed by the fact that much of what constitutes success is not something one controls or can even predict. In short success comes down to gloriously rich, trusting and humble word — providence.
For me a big part of the goal of life is to hear “well done good and faithful servant”, and as such this book was very encouraging. We tend to set the bar way to high for ourselves fantasizing about what we could have, should have become or achieved. There is some validity in this, particularly if we have been foolish or lazy, but it lifts the pressure off the generally diligent and wise — the pressure of having to have achieved fame and fortune. Much of life is lived in the obscure, like Paul Tripp says so poignantly in “The Case For Kids” nobody will even remember our names in hundred years time, much of life is mundane. But God is in all these details — success is not “making it big” as some nearly unattainable goal, it is living well according to God’s view. Now it turns out God measure’s things differently, a cup of water is noted down for special mention; faithfulness with some talents in making a fair return and God rewards exceeding abundantly and richly. We just don’t do a good job of determining value and success, and much of that is a lack of faith and enjoyment of God’s good gifts.
We covet, we lust and then we moan about how unsatisfying life is — we listen to the tantalizing lies of the flesh and the devil and then wonder why life is hell. We need to discipline ourselves to listen to God, to measure things the way he does, to delight in his gifts and rejoice in his approval, Jesus lived in obscurity for most of his life and he lived most deliberately for success. Long and hard work, laughter, struggle, victory, sharing, music, song, books, imagination, braais, wine, love, starting, finishing, children, old people, slowly, hugs, stars, whales, trees and blouwildebeest…
Gratitude is a discipline of joy, this book helps a worshipful heart cultivate it.